Three girls trafficked from Jharkhand were allegedly put on sale as sex workers by traffickers to customers in Uttar Pradesh on mobile messaging application WhatsApp, police said on Thursday.
The girls, including two minors, were rescued by the Uttar Pradesh Police and anti-trafficking activists from a house in Delhi’s Sitapuri neighbourhood, said Ghaziabad deputy superintendent of police Ranvijay Singh.
“They (the traffickers) used WhatsApp as a platform to share pictures of the girls with their clients. We got the information after a Ghaziabad girl, who was stuck in the racket managed to contact her family,” Singh, told Hindustan Times over phone.
The rescued girls, in their statement to the police said they were forced to consume alcohol, watch pornography and photographed by the traffickers.
In the statement the girls said their pictures were sent to the clients on WhatsApp and they were held captive by the traffickers.
“The girls said they were to be sold on the basis of the response to the pictures shared on the messaging app,” Singh said quoting the girls’ statement.
More than 30,000 girls from Jharkhand are trafficked to different parts of the country every year to work as domestic help or are forced into the sex trade, activists say.
The trafficked girls either end up at brothels or are sold as domestic help in the National Capital Region, said activist and founder-member of NGO Shakti Vahini Rishi Kant.
The recovery has brought to light the use of mobile messaging applications by traffickers to strike deals, he said.
“Sharing photographs and videos on WhatsApp is easy and safe. The traffickers do not need to meet their clients unless a girl is chosen. This lessens their chances of getting caught.
“Until now we were under the impression that Jharkhand girls are only trafficked to work as domestic help. This recovery has revealed that Jharkhand girls too are gradually being pushed into the sex trade.”
An official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as he was not permitted to speak to the media, said even the price of the girls is decided over WhatsApp as conversations on this platform cannot be easily tapped.
“The rescued girls were to be sold between Rs 40,000 and Rs 1 lakh,” he said.
The Ghaziabad-based traffickers, indentified as Ranjan Kumar, Raju Kumar and Ajay Kumar, also supplied girls from different parts of India for marriage and as domestic help, however, sex trade was their key business, said Loni circle officer Anil Yadav.
An FIR has been lodged against the trio with a Loni police station, he said.
“The girls were kept captive, fed, counselled by the traffickers and convinced to enter the sex trade for money.”
Out of the three Jharkhand girls, two are from Gumla and one from Ramgarh, he said, adding that police rescued another minor girl from Uttar Pradesh in the raid.